The Scariest Harry Potter Book Is . . . The Half-Blood Prince

pensieveWith the penultimate novel in the saga—Half-Blood Prince—we know that things must become much worse before they can become better and reach resolution in the seventh and last novel.  We should thus expect that it will be chilling in unmatched fashion, and I shall argue that it’s the scariest of them all!  Let’s take an eerie walk through the dark corners of Half-Blood Prince, to places seemingly devoid of light or hope . . . .

First of all, our worst fears seem to be confirmed.  Was Harry right and Dumbledore wrong all the while about Severus Snape?  In “Spinner’s End” (ch. 2) Snape admits to Narcissa and Bellatrix that he has been acting the clever spy by preying on Dumbledore’s “weakness”: his trust of others.  We see Snape form the Unbreakable Vow with Narcissa, which binds them “like a rope, like a fiery snake.”  Horrifyingly, in fulfillment of the Unbreakable Vow, Snape steps up in “The Lightning-Struck Tower” (ch. 27) to get Draco’s back by finishing the deadly task set by Voldemort: killing Dumbledore, with “revulsion and hatred etched in the harsh lines of his face.”  Harry, immobilized by Dumbledore, can do nothing but watch his mentor killed by Avada Kedavra before his very eyes.

Draco and Snape

The death of Dumbledore—the only one Voldemort ever feared—paralyzes Hogwarts, but this was only the culmination of a series of increasingly evil acts throughout Half-Blood Prince.  It’s as though Rowling drew on every Gothic element she could find in the genre.  We have:

  • Cursed objects, like the necklace intended for Dumbledore that sends Katie to the hospital (“Silver and Opals,” ch. 12)
  • Haunting and dark memories revealed by the Pensieve, including the sad and desperate tale of Merope Gaunt, who used the Amortentia love potion to manipulate Tom Riddle Sr. into marrying her and giving her a child (“The House of Gaunt,” ch. 10), and the sinister revelation of Tom Riddle’s obsession with Horcruxes and his willingness to rip his soul into seven parts through murder (“The Horcruxes,” ch. 23).
  • A damp and hideous cave under craggy, weather-worn rocks, where we find Inferi ready to drag unsuspecting trespassers to a watery grave (“The Cave,” ch. 26)

If you seek further flesh-creeping tales of the same ilk as The Half-Blood Prince, then you’ll be rather spoiled for choice from the following array:

  • For Inferi, look to “Night of the Living Dead”
  • For cursed objects, see the American-Canadian television series “Friday the 13th
  • For watery graves and craggy rocks, Edgar Allan Poe offers us “Annabel Lee”
  • We can also look to Poe for an aristocratic family’s demise in “The Fall of the House of Usher” and for a two-faced turncoat in “The Cask of Amontillado”
  • Sybil Trelawney couldn’t have done better by way of symbolic omens in having Dumbledore killed in the Tarot deck’s ill-fated lightning-struck tower

HBP potions book

4 thoughts on “The Scariest Harry Potter Book Is . . . The Half-Blood Prince

  1. HBP is pretty dang scary. I spoiled myself on it before I ever read Harry, though, so I knew too much about what was coming to feel it all properly. Had I not known, I think Snape’s pact with Narcissa and all the attacks with cursed objects and poison would’ve had me shivering and keeping a lamp on at night.

    The Inferi, of course, still scared me silly. 😉

  2. Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain saga has zombie-like Inferi-like creatures on land–the Cauldron Born. They and the Inferi are scary and horrible.

    But to me, the horror goes deeper–innocent people’s bodies being used and abused like that, with no hope. (We see a similar, but different use in The Hunger Games’ muttations.)

    Dumbledore’s drinking the potion is also horrific, and how scary and awful for Harry to experience that, and see his hero and ultimate father figure in such a vulnerable, childlike state.

    Then, we have the chilling child Tom Riddle. And Hannah and the opal necklace.

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